My job as a writer is to fulfill readers' expectations. In romance, this means at the end of the day–or in this case, the end of the book–I must provide an emotionally-satisfying and believable happy ending. Sounds simple, right?
Um. Not so much. For me, the ending is one of the hardest scenes to write. And if you're searching for advice on how to write the perfect ending, well…good luck. While there are tons of articles and books offering tips and step-by-step guidelines for the perfect opening, advice for endings is obscure. Why? Is it because we already know how a romance is going to end? Is it because endings are so subjective, depending entirely on our characters' and stories' unique conflicts and resolutions? Is it because the ending is easy to write, and I'm one of the few poor souls who just doesn't get it?
In preparation for this post, I re-read romances that feature some of my favorite endings. I also re-read a few that, in all honesty, just didn't work for me. I also read the endings to my own novels. As a reader and writer, what do I want, expect and need in an ending for me to consider it emotionally satisfying? Reading endings with a critical eye allowed me to come up with a simple five-element list for crafting fabulous and believable endings.
I like my endings dialogue-heavy. No summaries. No sweeping expositions. No long internal monologues featuring self-analysis, please. This is my last chance to “hear” these characters' voices. While saying I love you is key, it's not the only thing that needs to be said.
Setting showcases your characters' strengths and weaknesses. And just because we've reached the ending of a novel doesn't mean we can ignore it. In all likelihood, the setting has added depth and dimension to your characters throughout the novel. Why stop now?
Loves makes people do strange and crazy things, I know. But in novels, stranger and crazier isn't always better. Be sure that any romantic gestures are in keeping with the characters' personalities, otherwise the ending becomes overly-dramatic, unbelievable and might induce an eye-roll.
Since we're wrapping up the book, the ending should wind us down, not wind us up. Didn't we get all excited during the climax? Now's the time to slow things down a little. Use sentence structure, punctuation, word choices, etc., that slow your pacing and prepare the reader for The End.
For me, a convincing happy ending must include a nod to both emotional and physical intimacy. I need to know that the characters are connected on both levels. Our characters confessed their love. Awww. Will they seal it with a kiss…or something more? While physical intimacy doesn't have to be explicit, I think it should be implied, and absolutely should be appropriate to the heat level of your book.
You've just written–or read–a unique and beautiful story, doesn't it deserve an equally original ending?